There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.
A first-year coach.
First-year players, and others with bigger roles.
Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.
Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.
“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.
Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.
Morris Marshall’s career with the Wyoming men’s basketball team hasn’t been full of a lot of bright spots.
The 6-foot-4 guard came to UW last season from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida, and he averaged three minutes in eight games in 2015-16.
This season, with a new coach and more up-tempo offense Marshall’s role figured to increase. However, he’s dealt with a nagging shin injury since the summer. Although he’s been healthy the last few weeks, Marshall has played in only 13 games and averaged 6.5 minutes per contest.
Marshall’s final home regular-season game for the Cowboys is at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Jose State. Will he play, and how much, remains to be seen. But whether he plays or not, Marshall’s been an important part of this team according to one of its key players.
It was nice to break out of football mode for a couple of hours Thursday night to watch the Wyoming men’s basketball team. The Cowboys easily defeated Division II Chadron State 75-50 in front of a packed house of 1,187 at Eastern Wyoming College.
After a slow start for UW, the game was never in doubt, which is what you would expect in an exhibition game.
First, here is first-year UW coach Allen Edwards after the game:
When I asked Edwards if any individuals stood out during summer workouts, or the practices leading up to the Bahamas trip, he said he could give positives on just about every player. However, one player Edwards liked was redshirt freshman forward Andrew Moemeka. Edwards didn’t say a lot about Moemeka, but he did say he has “made progress” from his redshirt year and has given UW “a nice presence in the paint.”
Senior guard Jason McManamen and junior forward Alan Herndon both were redshirted by UW, and now they are two of UW’s best players heading into the season. Redshirt years benefitted them, and they’ve noticed a difference so far in Moemeka this summer coming off his redshirt year.
“Moe has stood out,” Herndon said. “He’s tall (6-8) and athletic. He’s worked on his game a lot during the redshirt year, just like I did. That was an important year for him last year.”
The Mountain West came up with a hashtag for its conference basketball tournament this year: #MWMadness.
That may be a good way to describe how the men’s tournament plays out this year.
2016 Mountain West Tournament
Of course, as I say this watch it be chalk all the way through. But if the regular season was any indication, expect the unexpected.
No. 2 seed Fresno State seems to be the popular pick as the Bulldogs seem to be playing the best basketball of all the teams. Top seed San Diego State quietly just gets it done.
Boise State and New Mexico have the talent to win this tournament, but so do lower seeds like Colorado State, UNLV, Utah State and yes, even Wyoming — although the Cowboys will be hard-pressed to win four games in four days with seven scholarship players available.
Take us through the shot by James Webb III in the loss at Colorado State Wednesday night in terms of what you saw and the entire decision-making process from the officials. What is your take on the whole situation, and how do you think the team will respond after the loss?
I’ve never seen anything like it…and spending the last three days writing about 0.8
seconds of one game, I still don’t get it. The Mountain West was in a no-win situation, but offering an explanation Thursday that wound up being wrong (timer was not synced to arena’s clock), it made it worse. Webb clearly got the shot off, and it clearly had an effect with a poor start to the second overtime. I’m not sure if Boise State should have been given the win retroactively, but I think it would’ve probably created a whole lot less negativity for the league. The team was understandably upset, and coach Leon Rice said the continuing drama hasn’t helped, but this team needs wins now, so it can’t let it slow them down.
Coming off its first bye of the conference season, the Wyoming men’s basketball team plays at Boise State at 2 p.m. Saturday at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
So how did UW use its bye week — or at least its time not having a mid-week game?
Coach Larry Shyatt said the team took Sunday and Tuesday off. It practiced “hard” Monday, and “lifted hard and had a long individual skill development” workout Wednesday. The team began preparations for Boise State Thursday. The coaches also spent time on the road recruiting.
Boise State (16-9 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) has lost four of its last five games, including a crazy 97-93 double-overtime loss at Colorado State where a game-winning 3-pointer by junior James Webb III was ruled no good by the officials.
On Jan. 4, Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams tweeted out — to paraphrase — that despite what critics have said, he wouldn’t trade his current group of teammates for anything.
Adams has been the undisputed leader of the Cowboys this season — on and off the floor. He leads the team in virtually every statistical category, and enters Wednesday’s game at San Jose State fourth in the nation in scoring at 24.8 points per game.
Adams scored a season-low 12 points in UW’s 59-57 home win over UNLV last Saturday. He did a lot of other things well in that game despite shooting 3 of 14 from the field and 1 of 7 from 3-point range. He had a game-high five assists, was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line and added two steals and two blocked shots.
Simply put, the Cowboys don’t win that game without Adams.
Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams doesn’t like to lose, and he often takes it hard and personally.
In UW’s 78-72 overtime loss to California last Saturday in Laramie, Adams missed a free throw with 32 seconds left that would have given the Cowboys a one-point lead.
There were several plays before and after that which played big roles in UW losing the game. Still, it was tough on Adams.
“This team competed as hard as I’ve seen them compete,” he said. “The ball bounced (Cal’s) way. They made a few more plays than we did. I’m heartbroken for this team. They left everything out there, and I couldn’t get it done for them.”
Adams has did just about everything for UW (5-3) this season. He’s fourth in the country in scoring (24.9 ppg). Adams leads the Cowboys with 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game. At 6-foot-2, Adams is second on the team with 4.9 rebounds per contest, and is tied for the most defensive rebounds on the team with 29.
And, despite missing that free throw against Cal, Adams leads the Pokes at an 80.9 percent clip at the free-throw line.